MOTORISTS have been told to expect the biggest ever shake-up in transport policy.
Road tax could soon be scrapped entirely in Britain 
It came as a minister predicted the abolition of vehicle tax, big cuts in fuel duties and a new system of road tolls for every mile travelled.
Transport Minister Norman Baker said a national system of road pricing was inevitable, adding: “Every government of every colour will get there, whatever parties say now.”
He explained that the drift towards electric and cleaner cars would force the Treasury to look at replacing the billions of pounds it is likely to lose through traditional carbon tax revenues.
Mr Baker wants a “revenue neutral” system of road pricing in which there would be no difference in overall costs for the average motorist.
He said vehicle excise duty would be scrapped and fuel duties lowered to offset the costs of the new charges, which could be monitored by a “black box” device.
We have to recognise that for the future the car is the friend of the environmentalist
Whereas heavy users of motorways would pay more, people simply travelling between villages or on more casual journeys would be better off, he said.
His comments came in an interview with the Sunday Express for this week’s Lib Dem conference in Brighton at which he will also express his wish for policy makers to examine building a 14-minute high speed rail link between Heathrow and Gatwick to create Britain’s main aviation hub.
However, his remarks about pay-as-you-drive tolls are likely to cause the biggest stir and mark out a key battleground for the next election.
The Government announced last week that foreign lorries would be charged for using Britain’s roads and many suspect it a “Trojan Horse” for more radical moves.
Although the Coalition has pledged not to introduce general tolls in this Parliament, Mr Baker wants the Lib Dems to press the matter after 2015.
Crucially, the Treasury’s Office for Budget Responsibility predicts fuel duty receipts will almost halve by 2030.
Graphs seen by the Sunday Express show receipts plunging from 1.8 per cent as a share of GDP in 2010 to about 1 per cent in 2030.
Mr Baker said: “The Exchequer is not just going to say, ‘Oh, we’ve lost some money’, they’re going to do something about it.
“So I think we should actually face up to that now in a mature way as a society and address how we’re going to deal with that.
“In the medium term, there’s no question that we’re going to have to move towards road-pricing and I would like it to be on a revenue neutral basis for the
“So what you pay in using the roads, you get off in road taxes and fuel so that you end up even on it.
“It wouldn’t be an extra tax, it would be just a different way of raising money.
“You could have a charge per mile for roads like motorways.
“You could then offset that by abolishing road tax and by reducing fuel duty so that they would even out.”
“That seems to me to be entirely equitable and sensible environmentally. People shouldn’t take fright.
“This isn’t about charging motorists a whole lot more money.”
In the interview, Mr Baker, a long time environmentalist, also said it was time for the green lobby to start seeing the cleaner car as a friend.
He said motorists have been penalised enough and it was time to clean other forms of transport, especially aviation.
He said: “We have to recognise that for the future the car is the friend of the environmentalist.
“We’ve moved very successfully towards the rollout of electric vehicles and a change to what cars are.
“They become a form of transport which is contributing to a healthy environment rather than damaging it as it was 20-30 years ago.
“There will be an interesting situation where rail becomes decarbonised, where the car becomes electrified, it makes aviation stand out as the one form of transport that’s not sorted itself out. “
Last night, Stephen Joseph, the chief executive of the Campaign for Better Transport, described Mr Baker’s remarks on road pricing as “hugely significant”.
He said: “This is first time any first frontline politician has said in public a whole load of people have been looking at in private, which are the graphs showing a drop off in revenue as vehicles become more efficient.
“It’s one of those political realities that no one has been prepared to talk about, so all credit to Norman for raising it, but there are clearly going to be big political acceptability issues.
“This is a worldwide issue and even US states like Oregon are looking at options like this.
“I think the only way it would work is if people are given a choice between paying road charges or paying fuel duty.”
Paul Watters, head of roads policy at the AA, agreed that Treasury projections for loss of duty revenue by 2030 were “serious”, adding: “They do need to get to grips with this subject, but there will still be large numbers of petrol
and diesel cars on the road.
“And our members tell us they do not trust Governments on road pricing and assurances about such systems being ‘revenue neutral’.
“No one ever believes it.”